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Love Baskets makes lasting impression

During the holidays, we are all bombarded with different charities asking for donations of money, food, clothing and time -- or all of the above.

Debby Geving realizes this. She knows how busy everyone is, as she is herself. She wants people to know their giving in fact does make a difference, not just during the holidays, but year round. And she knows this because she’s been on the receiving end herself -- and has never forgotten it.

“Back in the early 80s, 30 years or so ago, we were a young couple with a couple of young kids, laid off for the winter, and we received a Love Basket,” Geving said. “Back then it was a box with a Christmas dinner and a couple of homemade games for the kids. The community was caring even back then.”

Ever since receiving that Love Basket, Geving has tried to give back to the community as much as she can. She has worked in many capacities over the years organizing charity drives for various employers. The Somerset and New Richmond Love Baskets program is especially dear to her heart.

“I’m a lifelong resident of New Richmond,” Geving said. “I always get involved in things. I always want to learn more, do more.”

Geving has helped out the Somerset and New Richmond charity drive by shopping, making phone calls to recipient families to remind them when to come to the gift party and calling sponsors. As she said, she has “lots of hours and experience on the periphery.”

This year Geving took on more administrative duties by matching families with sponsors. For example, a giving family might request their donations go to a single mother. A business might say they want to sponsor six families with a certain number of children, Geving said.

“There are all kinds of formulas and it can be very complex,” Geving said. “I’m always trying to hook things up.”

People may wonder if their giving truly makes a difference, and it does, Geving said. She told the story of a lady calling this year who had received a Love Basket the year before. This year, she wanted to sponsor a family because she was able to. She wanted to help someone as they had helped her, Geving said.

“Now that’s what it’s all about,” Geving said. “People shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be ashamed. Everyone needs help at some point.”

Geving was moved by the fact that almost no recipient family asked for extravagant gifts. She was touched that often parents just listed their kids’ interests. Most parents didn’t write down their own sizes either, so most of the things would go to their kids.

“So many needed coats and mittens and that’s what they asked for,” Geving said. “Now that says something to me. We need to do more with that.”

Geving wants to start a coat and warm clothing drive and has already visited with some organizations about helping with that. Her personal goal is to sign up as many businesses as possible that didn’t take part this year. She has already made a list of places to approach.

“One thing I’ve also learned, and that’s if you ask someone directly for help, they will,” Geving said. “We all have the idea to help in the back of our heads, but if we don’t take action, it doesn’t get done. I have experience in procrastinating. But sometimes a light will just go off.”

Geving cites her experience of continuously seeing an ad for Gregory’s Gift of Hope in the paper, but never finding the time to volunteer. One day she made herself go, and now she’s “nuts over that,” she said.

“If everyone took a turn, for six months or even one year, it wouldn’t always be the same people running things,” Geving said. “You don’t have to do the big job of doing everything to help. Even help in little ways is appreciated.”

Geving said the parents in the Somerset and New Richmond school districts impress her because many are selfless.

“They just write that they want to see smiles on their kids’ faces,” Geving said. “Some of the families are grandparents taking care of grandkids, babies even. Family structures are not all the same either. We have to remember that.”

Geving is already planning for next year, and hopes to see the number of families sponsored go up. Almost half of the 214 families served were sponsored.

“That’s stimulating,” Geving said. “It gives us hope to do even more.”

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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